HOUMA, La. (AP) — The Terrebonne Parish Council has approved contracts with two Houma hotels to shelter essential parish employees after disasters — and a catering contract to feed parish workers.
Officials tell The Courier (http://bit.ly/MGRNgF) those options will be key to returning to normal after a hurricane.
The council, acting as the Budget and Finance Committee, unanimously approved contracts with the Microtel Inn & Suites of Houma, Courtyard Marriot and Premier Catering & Events Inc.
Council members Pete Lambert, Christa Duplantis, John Navy and Beryl Amedee supported the proposal. But they requested clarification from Emergency Preparedness Director Earl Eues about which parish officials are considered essential.
"I'm just really concerned about making sure we take care of the right people. The people in Public Works are really important," Lambert said. "I understand other departments are important but the Public Works Department is the most important."
Eues said they'd be for public works, police, fire or other parish workers who were called in and whose home was unlivable or without power after a storm.
Council Chairwoman Arlanda Williams said having the contracts in place would prevent additional stress during an already stressful event.
"We need to put these things in place prior to a storm," she said, because in a storm's aftermath "people may not be so cooperative with each other, which would hinder getting things accomplished."
Eues told the council the hotels will be used after an emergency, because neither is built to withstand a Category 3 or stronger storm.
Plans are in the works to build a safe house for Public Works over the next three years using federal grant money, Eues said.
The hotels typically charge $80 to $100 per night, but Terrebonne Chief Financial Officer Jamie Elfert said the parish wouldn't necessarily pay that.
"We're not going to know how much it's going to cost us until it happens," Elfert said. "The prices would be contingent on whatever we need and how many rooms and what types we need."
No matter the final cost, FEMA would reimburse the parish pending certain stipulations, Williams said.
"The issue is that if we do not do this prior to a storm, we risk not being reimbursed or possibly not having these services afforded to us because of other parishes or agencies that could come before us," she said.
Eues said having the contracts in place ahead of time ensures that utility-repair crews and others don't "sweep up these hotels."
Information from: The Courier, http://www.houmatoday.com